Innovation and Research….

These are days on Steve Jobs for the IT oriented, and Jagjit Singh for the music oriented — singing about them, thinking about them, blogging about them… I know little about music, so this is not about Jagjit Singh. I know a little about IT (after all I am a little sasi!), so that is what I am on to.

I bumped into this blog post — nice, not the usual advice useful in life. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20117575-37/what-i-learned-from-steve-jobs/ Check it out.

Particularly interesting are the hear the experts, but dont listen to them. And the comment on committees. Far too often, in many forums, I have seen committees and experts making comments with little understanding and foresight. Collective opinion of committees with half baked experts, amount to not doing anything good. When one wants justification of cost, another wants market survey, and someone ‘knows’ this wont work. Intuition is what has led to most innovative things in the world history, not scientifically studied mathematically precise proposals.

But intuition is tricky to identify. It is easy to pass of something you have read somewhere, or done somewhere as your intuition. One way to judge your intuition is with your own passion for it, your belief in it. Someone else’s intuition can not determine your path. And secondly, intuition can not be arbitrary. A qualitative argument against usual objections should be possible. I remember someone making a proposal for project for voice biometrics. Finger print is understandable — there is enough belief in the world that no two prints are alike. Whether you can capture enough features to retain this uniqueness, and whether such features are adequately safe are different stories. At least finger print biometrics looks feasible. But voice is another story. Good mimicry artists can copy a voice even better than the original! That means, at least the human audible part of speech does not have enough uniqueness. So, there should be some conviction that the uniqueness is there in some aspect or other, before claiming to work on that. Such sanity checks balanced with some faith in intuition is needed for nurturing innovation.

I also liked the cue that build something ‘you’ will use. The intended target users may not be able to relate to the product, even when they see it. Somethings take time. But if it fills a need or utility that you have felt, then, perhaps, there is hope. It is the same thing that open source people talk of ‘scratching one’s itch’. If you visualise possible itches and build solutions, it may not sell. If you feel an itch, solve it, and that could be lessons (solutions) for others, and you would have developed it at least to solve your own problem.

However, all this is easier said than done. When you fund a project, how do you know what to fund, and where you think is money drain with no output? The usual solution is try committees to evaluate the proposals – through documents, presentations, etc. But finding people who can be honest to themselves, and respect intuition and be futuristic is not easy. Asking stupid and nasty questions is ok; but taking views is not. But, far too often, that is what happens. And not surprisingly, innovation takes a back seat….

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